Recollections – Dr Garry J. Tee

Dr Garry J. Tee joined AUUC in 1969. He works in the Mathematics Department at the University of Auckland. We are very thankful that he has shared with us some of his favourite photographs (scanned 35mm slides) and comments from his diving days.

On my first diving trip (after the Auckland University Underwater Club training course), off the Poor Knights Islands we encountered a friendly sunfish on 29-05-1969. Most of the few underwater cameras then in NZ were focused on that sunfish. This photograph was taken by Bruce Kaynor, an American undergraduate student of geology, who was spending a year at the University of Auckland.

In August 1969 I tried diving from the shore north of Matapouri Bay together with Rob Fullerton, who was taking my Stage 2 paper on numerical analysis. The sea was too rough for anything to be seen underwater, and so we headed back to shore. Rob asked for my advice about what type of camera to buy. I recommended my Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, a single-lens reflex camera, which I had left with our gear on shore. I invited him to swim ahead and use my camera to take a photograph of me returning to land, and I gave him brief verbal instructions on how to operate the camera. When Rob saw the photograph which he had taken, he promptly bought a camera of that model.

I attach my favourite photograph, of a school of Kingfish (Seriola grandis) up to 1.6m long (uncommonly large), at 25m depth off Cape Karikari on 26-05-1971.

In August 1972 I met a playful California sealioness off Santa Ana Island, at 6m depth. She was 2.2m long, and she whirled around me so rapidly that I got giddy aiming the camera at her.

In December 1974 I was on a diving trip based at Whangaroa Harbour. I dived north of Mahinepoua Island over a level seabed of silty sand at 18m depth, and there I saw a discarded bilge-pump, which was surrounded by used scallop shells. I banged my diving knife against the fuel tank to signal to my buddy, whereupon a small octopus came billowing out from the bilge-pump and wiggled its warts at me, to tell me not to ring its doorbell so loudly. Then it got even more furious with me when I used my flash to take photographs, showing the octopus getting cross-eyed with rage as it huffed and puffed its siphons at me.

I have photographed many very colourful nudibranch molluscs. When Richard Willan was a Stage 1 student here (in 1971) he already had an international reputation for his studies of nudibranchs. At the Poor Knights Islands in 1975 I was making a leisurely circuit of Landing Bay Pinnacle at 20m depth, where I photographed a pair of unfamiliar nudibranchs, coloured yellow and bright blue.

Two days later I told Richard, and he was extremely interested in my report. A week after that first sighting I was back on Landing Bay Pinnacle, and at 20m I saw such a nudibranch, which I collected. I managed (with considerable difficulty) to deliver it alive to Richard the following day. He placed it in his aquarium, and then he identified it as Tambja verconis, a species known from South Australia and which had never been reported in NZ waters. In 2003 Richard contributed the chapter on nudibranchs in “The Living Reef” (ed. by Neil Anderson & Malcolm Francis, Craig Potton Publishing Co; Nelson), with an astonishing photograph of a Tambja verconis swallowing another nudibranch, almost as large as itself!